Champ Car set to merge with IRL

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On a cold and snowy day in Indianapolis, the long, bitter and divisive IndyCar "Cold War" has come to an end, ironically with the stroke of a pen in Chicago and not the "World Capital of Auto Racing" in Indianapolis.

Owners of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League completed an agreement in principle Friday that will unify the sport for 2008.

Champ Car co-owner Gerald Forsythe signed the agreement in Chicago, joining partner Kevin Kalkhoven and Indy Racing League founder and CEO Tony George, who signed late Thursday in Indianapolis.

Forsythe's was the last signature required to bring this long process to a conclusion.

Details of a press conference on the agreement will be forthcoming.

Kalkhoven, the main principal of Champ Car Racing, and George both left Indianapolis after a Friday morning meeting.

George and Kalkhoven met late into the night on Thursday at a downtown Indianapolis restaurant and made what both sides called "significant progress." The two met again on Friday morning to finalize the agreement.

Time was a major consideration for both sides. The IndyCar Series is set to have its first open practice of the season next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway and some of the Champ Car teams expected to join the series were hoping to attend. But without a firm agreement between the two sides, that attendance remained in limbo until the agreement was signed by Forsythe.

The IndyCar Series had hoped to call a press conference for noon Friday but the plan was scuttled after the meeting Thursday night.

News of the agreement was met with near-immediate approval from sources and suppliers in both series.

"This is a great day for open-wheel racing and one that I and my Rahal Letterman Racing team have looked forward to for a long time," said IndyCar team owner Bobby Rahal, who at one time was the CEO of the CART series -- the predecessor to Champ Car. "I applaud all of those that made this possible, but want to especially recognize all of those that made sacrifices and concessions to secure the future of open-wheel racing. I truly believe that this is the first step toward restoring open-wheel racing and the Indianapolis 500 to not only where it once was, but beyond."

Among those suppliers was Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, which served as sole tire supplier to both circuits since 2000 and added marketing leverage as a strong promotional partner with each organization.

"Overall, Bridgestone Firestone Motorsports is quite pleased for the sport," said Al Speyer, executive director of Bridgestone Firestone Motorsports. "We are looking for a unified American open-wheel racing series to maximize fan interest, as well as bring in additional teams, drivers and sponsors -- all of which will contribute to the health and growth of that series. We are eager to work with everyone involved in the transition and look forward to an even more promising future.

"As always, we look forward to a solid future supplying the best racing tires in the business," Speyer added. "The synergies possible with all of the great people involved working toward a common goal really excites us."